Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Less Calories, Taste Great?

As we posted yesterday, the DOH is once again looking to dictate calorie posting information at around 2300 fast food restaurants in the city. As the NY Daily News reports this morning: "The city Board of Health is poised to reenact Tuesday a bitterly contested rule requiring restaurants to post the calorie contents of each dish on their menus."

This renewed effort fits in with the Department's overall philosophy-use regulations against city businesses, without regard to their fiscal impact, in order to compel changes in the behavior of city residents. While we believe that the current effort, if it survives the expected legal challenge, will do little to achieve health goals, we are convinced that it will cost local restaurants considerable compliance costs. In the end, this social experiment will demonstrate that the costs of calorie posting far outweigh the putative benefits.

If we listen to the health commissioner, however, the department's policy will generate a dramatic change in behavior and a concomitant reduction in health costs: "City health officials expect the regulation to result in 150,000 fewer New Yorkers becoming obese over the next five years and to prevent at least 30,000 cases of diabetes."

On what do they base this wild estimate? Certainly it isn't based on any significant public health research that gives even a hint of the measure's potential efficacy. Basically, the DOH is winging it, with a social experiment funded by the hard-earned dollars of local franchise owners. It's little more than a frontal assault on an industry that has provided more opportunity for minority entrepreneurship than any other in this country.

But that's certainly in pattern for this administration. After all Intro 665, a bill that would flood minority neighborhoods with produce peddlers, is a direct threat to the livelihood of thousands of minority supermarket owners and green grocers who have invested in these communities and are already providing the fresh fruits and vegetables that the Bloombergistas claim are not available in certain neighborhoods.

There are, according to our estimates, over 2,500 local stores providing fresh produce to poor neighborhoods. In the late seventies, for instance, there were only around fifty Korean produce stores. Today there are 1400! Yet, the city simply has no accurate idea where these stores are located. Has it stopped them from proposing to flood the same areas where these stores are operating? You'd think that a simple due diligence would have been done before the sweeping proposal was launched.

We're really not surprised. In his 2,000 word state of the city speech Mayor Mike failed to mention small business even once! His policies over six years reflect this animus-from evicting minority businesses from the Bronx Terminal Market, to raising the cigarette tax and driving $250 million a year worth of business from local bodegas to the black market and the Internet (To which he famously remarked: "It's a minor economic issue").

The mayor is consumed with forcing folks to live healthier lives, but remains indifferent to the health of neighborhood economies that are as important to the well being of poorer New Yorkers. In the original dust up on calorie posting the mayor told the Daily News: " “Anyone who thinks we’re going to walk away from trying to tell the public what they’re eating and what it’s doing to them doesn’t understand the obligation this city’s health department has,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday. “We have to tell people how to lead better lives.”

God help the businesses that get in the way of the health crusade and those elites that know what's best for the less fortunate among us. It's a slippery slope towards a paternalism that will, if successful, mean bigger government and less freedom.